Language Development - Partnering with Parents

THEORY TO PRACTICE, ISSUE NO. 5, FALL '13

Preschool helps give young children a leg up when they enter kindergarten. But research shows some young kids—namely, dual language learners (DLLs)—need additional support to reap maximum benefit.

“Preschool Spanish-speaking, dual language learners are behind in their English (and Spanish) language ability when they enter kindergarten,” says Brook Sawyer, PhD, assistant professor of education and human services.

Sawyer and colleagues at Temple, NYU, and USF investigated what preschool teachers were doing to support Spanish-speaking DLLs, and found they were using minimal strategies.

“As a field, we have to do a better job at preparing teachers, and we need to differentiate our professional development so we are taking into account teachers who do not speak the children’s native language,” she says.

Sawyer’s findings have helped shape her future research. Together with her colleague Patti Manz, Ph.D., associate professor in the school psychology department, Sawyer plans to help build partnerships between preschool teachers and parents of Spanish-speaking DLLs, as well as to use technology (iPads) as a means to improve language skills.

“Parent involvement is a significant contributor to children’s academic performance,” Sawyer says. And when parents and teachers partner, they can share knowledge.

“Parents can provide teachers with key words in their native language and information about their culture to build into their lessons,” Sawyer says. “And teachers can suggest to parents ways to enhance children’s language, such as reading with them in interactive ways.”